Advocate General R Shunmugasundaram made the submission before the bench comprising Justice R Mahadevan and Justice Abul Quddhose that is hearing two petitions by M Saravanan and AV Gopala Krishnan challenging the government’s decision to melt the temples’ gold. The petitioners said melting temple jewellery was against the interest of devotees.
“The State officials have no right to order the melting of gold belonging to temples. The same amounts to a blatant attempt to bulldoze into and take over the affairs of the Hindu affairs, which is wholly contrary to Articles 25, 26, and 29 of the Constitution,” Saravanan said in his petition. The petitioners added that melting gold would pave the way for misappropriation.
However, the AG said the government has not decided to melt all the jewels; only the jewels that are unusable would be melted into bars. The practice of monetising temple jewels was not new, as it has been done in the State since 1977, he added.
“About 5 lakh grams of gold jewels have been melted into bars and kept in banks until now. The government had got around Rs 11 crore as interest and the same has been used for the temple works,” submitted the AG.
To oversee the melting process, the government has nominated a committee of three former judges of SC and HC, which would monitor the process of monetising temple jewels.
“The State government had clearly mentioned this in a Government Order (GO) dated September 9 that it will not melt all the temple jewels. Three retired judges of SC and MHC have been nominated for overseeing temple gold monetisation. About 2,137 grams of gold will be melted at the government mint in Mumbai, and bars will be deposited in nationalised banks,” the AG informed the bench.
The judges asked the petitioners about their knowledge of the GO issued by the government in September and directed the parties to submit more affidavits during the next hearing. The case was then adjourned to October 21.